The Saskatchewan Rush has been excellent in all phases while jumping out to a 3-0 record, their best start since 2014.
The team is averaging 18 goals a game with a power play operating at 62.5%. The goals against average of 9.67 is a testament to a more aggressive and intense defence. It’s also a reflection on goaltender Evan Kirk. The former NLL goalie of the year has been outstanding including a 41-save, first-star performance in Saturday’s 13-9 win over the defending champion Swarm in Georgia.
"You've got to get saves and Evan Kirk has been great," said Coach and GM Derek Keenan.
Kirk made many key saves at crucial points while compiling a 3-0 record. The former last line of defence for the New England Black Wolves said regardless of the situation, like shutting out the potent Georgia attack until the second quarter, it’s business as usual.
“I wasn’t thinking, I was just kind of doing,” said Kirk
“I was reacting and doing what you’re taught, still learning all the guys (defence) to work together and get through it to be quite honest.”
Kirk said he was feeling more comfortable in his new surroundings against the Swarm and felt the cohesion with an excellent defensive corps continued to build.
“I’m spending more time with them and getting to know the guys, working together, seeing their tendencies and trying to work around that,” said Kirk who added the ability level on the Rush defence against Georgia was impressive.
“It’s funny, but they’re even better than I thought, so I’m getting comfortable back there and realizing they are going to do their job and I just have to stick to mine and not do anything crazy to get the win.”
Tyler Carlson has returned as the back-up, winning a five-goaltender battle through training camp and pre-season. Carlson is comfortable with his role especially since he has a history with Kirk and that meant an instant rapport.
Carlson said they comically saw themselves coming out of training camp like the characters in the movie “Step Brothers”.
“He was John C. Reilly and I was Will Ferrell,” said Carlson who felt they were a lot alike.
“We like to have fun, we’re really good and we have experience playing together because we both started with the Swarm in 2012, yeah, Kirkie and I get along really, really well”
Kirk has the second-best goals-against average in the league and his save percentage at .795 ranks third in the NLL.
This Saturday, Kirk and the Rush face the league leader in both of those categories as they take on Dillon Ward and the 3-0 Mammoth in Colorado. It will be a match-up of the league’s top two teams with first place on the line.
98-COOL coverage begins with the Rush-Hour pregame show at 7 p.m. with first face-off scheduled for 8 o’clock.